As a writer, I am always on the look out for story ideas. Inspiration can come from anywhere: a dream, a TV show, a role playing game (RPG), like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).
Up until a year and a half ago, I never played D&D. I knew it existed and what it was generally about, but none of my friends played so I never played. That is until I met my fiance. He's been playing RPG games practically his whole life and he and his friends have a standing Saturday night game. A couple of months of dating, I met his friends. A couple of weeks after that, I witnessed my first Dungeons and Dragons game. A couple of months after that, I was building my first D&D character.
Building a D&D character is like building a character for a story, so the process was natural for me. I wanted a female character who was head strong, independent and could kick some butt. This character has a tragic past, one that lead her into the game and meeting the existing set of characters. But, here's what was different for me.
I knew of fantasy characters: elves, orcs, wizards, etc., but I never really immersed myself into that type of fantasy world. I write mostly contemporary stuff. Even the current book I'm writing is grounded in contemporary fantasy: wicca, voodoo, grimoires, etc. It won't have the fantasy characters that RPGs are built around. This meant, I am learning something new. Something that I could include in a future book should an idea present itself. In fact, one did.
10 months into playing D&D, it was time for me to build another character. This time I was building a female, tiefling, rogue assassin. I was building her along side my fiance (who obviously know more about the fantasy element than I do) and as we were creating her backstory, her personality, who she is as a person, I started falling in love with her. I wanted to know more about her and build out her life far beyond what was needed for the game. She's sitting in my back pocket to develop in the future.
I have built three characters thus far and with each iteration I learn more about this world as well as my habits. Apparently, I have a type. Strong female characters with a tragic backstory who need to overcome their grief. This experience into RPGs have taught me to not only to expand out of my comfort zone sometimes, but that this world is so rich that I should try creating a fiction story for it. Who knows, maybe my tiefling, rogue assassin will be at the center of it.
Death is simply a part of life. It is inevitable. In my 36 years of life, I have experienced loss: the loss of a loved one, the loss of a friend, the loss of a pet, but I have never been affected by the loss of a celebrity . . . until now.
Yes, I am surprised when a celebrity dies. I feel sad in that moment, wishing that person a peaceful rest, their family my condolences. But, that’s usually where it ends. Not today, though. Today is different.
Today, I mourn the loss of a great actor. One that I have loved in every movie I have seen him in, especially Harry Potter. I am, of course, talking about Alan Rickman, the one and only Professor Severus Snape.
As with many Harry Potter readers, I had a certain image in my head of Snape, what he looked like, how he talked. I remember watching the first movie and thinking how well they casted him. Rickman embodied this character and took him to a level I would have never imaged for Snape. I never really felt sorry for Snape in the books, but Rickman gave him complexities beyond that of the written page. For the first time, I sympathized with Snape all because this wonderful actor was that good.
I don’t know why Alan’s death is hitting me harder than most. Maybe it’s because I am passionate about the fandom of Harry Potter and there is no HP fandom without Alan Rickman’s Snape. That’s the thing about us Potterheads, we feel for every character of the stories and for the actors who played them in the movies.
From this point on, when I watch the movies (over and over), I will be saddened knowing that Alan is no longer making movies and inspiring us through his characters. I will be saddened knowing that he won’t get to be 80, sitting in his rocking chair, reading Harry Potter . . . again and always.
But, I will take joy in knowing that future generations will be able to enjoy his work as much as I have. They will be able to enjoy and understand why his Severus Snape is such an iconic character.
So with my wand raised, I honor an actor who touched my heart and a character I will always love to hate and hate to love. And when my kids someday ask me why I still mourn Professor Snape after all this time, my response will be . . .
In May, I went to my very first Harry Potter Convention called Misti-Con. I've written about it before. Well, after the convention, a Facebook group was created to re-read all of the Harry Potter books before the 2017 Misti-Con. It was our way to stay connected to the HP World and each other. We just finsihed book 3 and it dawned on me: why haven't I incuded you? So on the forum, I have created topics for each of the first three books. Tell me your thoughts. You can be a first time reader, someone who has read the books 10 times or someone who never has read the book but curious about certain things you've heard or seen. The forum is open to all. Check it out here.
In reading these books again, I remember just why I loved them. Being a Potterhead, you would think I would have read the books a dozen times. The truth is I haven't. This is the first time I am re-reading the series and I am so picking up on all the little clues Rowling left in the story to the conclusion. I am also noticing the huge differences from the books to the movies more so than I did when I first saw them and reviewed them. Don't get me wrong, I love the movies too. But re-reading the stories, I ckeep asking myself why the movie makers made the changes they did or why they excluded what they did. I wish I can ask them.
Rump, written by Liesl Shurtliff, is a retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin.
Let’s start off with what’s not revealed in the original Grimm’s version of Rumpelstiltskin:
With this interesting retelling, Shurtliff answers all these questions and puts a spin on the information we do know.
When the book opens, Rump's mother dies in child birth only giving Rump half is name. In the story, a name is a powerful thing and can signify what you are meant to do in life. Only having half a name, Rump feels a little cheated in life. That is until he discovers he can spin straw into gold.
Answer 1) In the story, spinning straw into gold is a family trait. Rump's mother could do it and he later learns that his mother's sisters (his aunts) can do it as well. Though they choose to spin straw into other forms. But spinning gold comes with a price. Because of the amount of magic needed to spin straw to gold, it drains the spinner of strength making them unable to negotiate a price for the gold. As Rump sells the gold to the local miller, he discovers that no matter how much he wants to fetch a higher price, he is bound to take whatever the miller offers him. Yes, Rump and the miller, along with his daughter (Opal), know each other. Which is how Rump knew the miller's daughter was in trouble.
Answer 2) Because of the gold the miller was collecting from Rump and the fact the the King gets a percentage of all the gold produced, it was no surprise that Rump's gold caught the attention of the King. But when the King comes to town, just as with the original tale, the miller says it's his daughter, Opal, that can spin the gold. This puts the daughter in danger, now having to produce large quantities of gold for the king. Rump, being a good person, feels guilty for putting Opal in jeopardy and goes to save her, thus spinning the straw into gold at whatever price Opal gives him: her necklace, her ring, and her first born child.
Answer 3) In this story, Rump doesn't want Opal's first born. When Opal realizes she has nothing left to give, Rump makes a joke about the first born and without thinking Opal say yes. Because of the magic behind the spinning of straw to gold, Rump had no choice but to accept the payment even though the child was the last thing he wanted. In fact, he moves far away from the castle in hopes of never finding out that Opal, the now queen, has bore a child.
Answer 4) With no free will in the matter, Rump goes to collect his payment when he hears word that Opal has bore a child. As with the original story, Opal tries to get out of the deal and as a last resort Rump tells her to guess his name. Why three days? With Opal no longer with child, the King wants Opal to spin more straw to gold and has three days to complete the enormous task. Rump uses this time frame as he spins the gold for her. So, how did Rumpelstiltskin come to be?
Let's start with Rumple. In this story, Rumple means wrapped or trapped in magic. This was how Rump felt at times, having no control over the spinning of gold. Then there's Stiltskin, which in the story is pure magic, more powerful than any enchantment or spell or . . . curse. And that was what Rump's situation was considered, a curse. And so with the full name of Rumpelstiltskin, Rump could control his magic, control the spinning of straw to gold in a way that his mother never could.
And that is just the story in the context of Rumpelstiltskin. But there are little gems in the book as well:
I have to say, I enjoyed this retelling. I'm going to check out Liesl Shurtliff next book called Jack. That is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. I wonder if Rump's bean is the stalk?
I love the concept of Kaleidoscope. Before I talk about why, take a look at their YouTube video about it and see why I am loving this idea.
Do you see what I mean? As a Puerto Rican woman, I appreciate this focus on diversity. You don't see many of it in the book stores and those that are there get overlooked because of the Harry Potter and Hunger Games of the world. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED Harry Potter and Hunger Games, but I also love to read stories that aren't as well known. Some of my favorite books are ones I've randomly found in the clearance section of Barnes and Noble.
This spotlighting of diverse books will help brings these not-so-well-known books to light. It'll also bring some more culture to the books stores. As far as I am concerned, this is a good thing. I just purchased two of the books on their Latin American list, I am so excited about this venture.
Are you excited with me?
Over Memorial Day weekend, I attended a Harry Potter convention called Misti-Con. It was my first ever con and I had no idea what to expect going into it. I packed up all my HP costumes and memorabilia with the excited hope of meeting like minded obsessed fans as myself. I was not disappointed.
I loved every minute of the con. The friends I made were wonderfully kooky like me and all talk of Harry Potter was accepted (unlike real-life sometimes). But what made this con so great for me, was the feeling of inspiration I felt afterwards. Because I felt so accepted, I felt motivated to continue down the path of being me and an aspiring writer. It was as if Misti-Con approved of my dreams and now I can go forth and write. It's weird, I know, but it worked. Something, all you need is to feel inspiration, no matter where it comes from.
We all have things we enjoy, thing we're passionate or obsessed about. I say embrace them and see if you can find others like yourself. Who know, they might just inspire you at a time where you feel unmotivated.
There is a joy in conventions, especially when it's the right convention. Misti-Con was the best place for me to start and I can't wait for 2017. Who will join me?
One of the first things any establish writer will tell you is to read. Read as much as you can, specifically in the genre of writing you are targeting for your own style. Reading helps you understand structure, vocabulary, plot and so forth. It also helps you see what’s popular, what are the types of books readers are reading and editors are publishing. Along this line, I say not only read as many books as you can, but find ways to discuss them with other readers. This is why I suggest joining a book club.
Book clubs are a great way to see what other readers think about the books that interest you. You can discover what some people think work and don’t work when it comes to the story and plot. It may be able to help you understand what to avoid or what to try and learn more about with your own writing.
At the same time, you may find good friends among the group. These friends can become readers of your own stories and be able to help and give you insight into what you can do to make the story that much stronger.
Who knows, you might enjoy the simple act of discussing books even if you don’t find any guidance within conversations.
The Sister's Grimm series, written by Michael Buckley, is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
Many of us grew up hearing about Grimm's Fairy Tales, you may have even been someone who read those versions of the tales. If it's been years sense you've heard those stories, then you'll love reacquainting yourself with the characters you met as a child and your children will love meeting them for the first time in this exciting twist to the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Meet Sabrina and Daphne, two girls who discover they are the decedents of Wilhelm Grimm and the stories they thought were just tales are actually real-life accounts of magical creatures called Everafters. In the town of Ferryport Landing, Everafters began to rebel against humans causing Wilhelm to cast a spell that would prevent them from leaving, but at a steep price. There must always be a Grimm within it's walls forced to stay with the Everafters.
As fairy-tale detectives, the sisters solve mystery after mystery ensuring the peace between humans and Everafters, while trying to solve the biggest mystery of all: the disappearance of their parents. Buckley magically intertwines past fairy tale knowledge throughout the pages of a new tale. Readers can have fun identifying old friends, seeing the new shapes they have formed: Prince Charming as the Mayor, Snow White as a school teacher, the Three Little Pigs as police offers and much more.
Here are some more interesting tidbits:
This is just a taste of the treats that awaits you in the series. Buckley's understanding of these tales provides a complete foundation for this series, one that he perfectly builds on, giving us more tales to add to the collection.
I have been writing Glasses and All for quite some time now. It's a story that I'm proud of so I have been taking my time to do it right. In 2013, I heard A Great Big World's song Say Something (the one featuring Christina Aguilera). The second I heard, I thought it was a perfect song for one of the chapters in my book. And from there, a playlist emerged.
Every time I head a song on the radio or on my iPod, I thought "Hmm . . would that work for this chapter?" So one weekend, I decided to create a playlist. I sat at my computer on iTunes, YouTube and the like, finding songs that were perfect for my book. I came up with two songs per chapter that best showcased the emotions and/or plot of that chapter. I was pleased with what I came up with.
The first time I listened to the playlist, I couldn't stop smiling. Each time one of the songs played, I could picture the scene in that chapter clearly in my head, both the good and bad parts of it. The playlist has helped me to stay connected to my book even when I find myself too busy to work on it. When I do work on it, I always have the playlist playing in the background. It guides me through my book and the emotions and plots I want to tell within.
Music has that great ability in portraying emotion that sometimes words alone can't do. By finding songs that connect to my book, I have been able to take it one step further. I listen to the song and pay attention to the way it makes me feel. Then I take those feelings and try my best to incorporate them into the story.
This one experiment has made me want to do it for all my books. I am currently researching my next story and already I have a list of songs that might just work for what I want to say.
Creating a playlist has now become apart of my writing routine and I am glad I added it.
The Looking Glass Wars, written by Frank Beddor, is a retelling of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.
Beddor takes Carroll's classic tale of a young girl who falls into a rabbit hole and completely reinvents it into a world of adventure pinning good vs. evil. The original does the same with Alice vs. the Red Queen. The difference with this book, Alyss is from Wonderland and Red is her aunt.
Princess Alyss is next for the thrown of Wonderland which is currently run by her mother, that is until her Aunt Redd comes into the picture. Furious about being overthrown by her younger sister, Redd gets revenge killing both the Queen and King, leaving Alyss orphaned. Alyss escapes with Hatter to our world. Separated, Hatter feverishly searches for the princess, while Alyss is must conform to the reality of her new life.
One of my favorite parts, she gets adopted by the Liddells and meets Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the author of the original tale of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll himself. Beddor actually takes real life events and plays them out in his retelling. Just like real life, they go on a boat ride together. The difference, it's Alyss who tells him the tale of Wonderland and he takes her stories to create Alice in Wonderland and it's through this book that gives Hatter the clue he needs in finding the lost princess.
My absolute favorite part of this story is the idea of imagination being a form of magical powers. In Wonderland there are two forms, White Imagination and Black Imagination. No doubt which categories Alyss and Redd fall into. What makes me like it so much is that one of the main themes in Carroll's version was imagination. The fact that imagination can be so powerful it makes a little girl believe she was in fact in a fantasy world where a queen wanted to cut off her head. In Beddor's version, he uses imagination as a form of a weapon, away for Alyss to avenge her parents and get back the crown that belongs her.
Here are some more interesting twists:
And that is juts a taste of the fun retelling this trilogy offers you.
Blogs are whatever we make them. Defining ‘Blog’ is a fool’s errand.